I’m going to CCDA in Memphis (November 11-14) and just looked at the workshops offered at this year’s national conference.

Temple House Dwellers:  you might want to start planning your choices for Thursday and Friday afternoons.


Flower HouseLisa Waud is a florist in Detroit who paid $250 for a house in Hamtramck.  This past weekend it was filled with 36,000 flowers.  Before the flowers 12,000 pounds of trash was removed.  This past weekend 2,000 people visited the house.  Now it “will be responsibly deconstructed and its materials repurposed. The land will be converted into a flower farm and design center on their formerly neglected properties.”

It’s called Flower House.  Last week the New York Times reported on the Flower House:

Flower House will be opened to ticketed visitors from Friday until Sunday. When the installation is finished, Reclaim Detroit’s crew will take down the house, leaving an empty field. The wood will be repurposed into new objects like tables, guitars and cutting boards …

The house itself is not salvageable. Like so many of the derelict Detroit homes that sell for rock-bottom prices, this one would cost more to rehabilitate than it is ever likely to be worth. A construction engineer whom Ms. Waud spoke with estimated the repair costs at $1 million. Paying this year’s property taxes on Flower House and its neighbor cost Ms. Waud three times what she spent to actually buy them …

When the lot is cleared, Ms. Waud plans to turn it into a seasonal farm to help supply flowers like peonies and dahlias for her business …

“It’s a beautiful ruin,” she said. “It’s charming, kind of scary and eerie, and beautiful in a dark way. To step into it is going to be surreal, and unforgettable.”

Yeah, I can imagine.

One last quote from Sally Vander Wyst, a collaborating florist from Milwaukee.  “”Our concept is post-apocalyptic spooky … we want it to look like the world ended and nature took things back within seconds.”

My view of Halsted this afternoon sipping cafe au lait and doing email.

My view of Halsted this afternoon sipping cafe au lait and doing email.  And pondering the meaning of changed names.

Today I was in Chicago.

I was in Chicago with personal missions to complete.  Like a new pair of shoes to wear with my Salvation Army officer uniform.  Alamo Shoes on Clark in Andersonville.  It’s been my shoe salvation for many years.  It’s not easy finding my size for this kind of shoe.  Alamo has always saved me.  Today, I walked in, a salesman greeted me, I told him what I wanted, a moment later he had the shoes.  I was out in ten minutes.  My kind of shopping.

But I utterly failed in finding a replacement metal teapot for Yoshiko.

For years my mother has used a small, very small, aluminum teapot to brew green tea.  When I visit we share tea from this increasingly worn pot.  Her favorite tea:  genmai cha.  Today I thought Mitsuwa in Arlington Heights would be teapot salvation.  Wrong.  I am so sure that I once saw this type of pot in Mitsuwa’s grocery store, but today nothing.  And the little shop once in Mitsuwa, filled with all sorts of Japanese household articles like a metal teapot, gone.  Today, only an empty space.

After my disappointment at Mitsuwa I drove from Alamo this afternoon to Joong Boo Market on Kimball almost under the Kennedy Expressway.  It looked promising when I started searching but again, disappointment.

On the way I drove California between Irving Park and Addison and passed the high school our youngest son graduated.  It’s name has changed.  Once, Gordon Tech.  Now, DePaul College Prep.  But that section of California still also has the little signs bearing the honorific name of Gordon Tech.

As time goes by more people will wonder.  Why ‘Gordon Tech?’

After the disappointing Joong Boo I stopped for lunch at Penny’s Noodle on Sheffield under the Brown line ‘L’.  The waitress smiled when I entered.  It’s gratifying to be recognized after a long absence.  But the menu she offered said “Paul’s Noodles”.  Yes, there too was a name change.  But she assured me that the same family still ran the restaurant.  I believe her.  My warm bowl of wonton soup was as good today as in years’ past.  It felt very good on this sunny day which warmed only to the low 50s.

And my bank (I still bank in Chicago).  The same bank, but it got a new name several months ago.

And Caribou Coffee.  Now, Peets.

The changes in names today invoked pattern-searching instincts in me; what’s going on?  I’m not sure there’s any significance to all the name changes.  Still, I wonder.

Names and identity.  In such a densely populated place like a city, a place with so many places, we can feel lost without the familiar.  The school building, the noodle shop, the bank were all still there.  But, the names.  All different.  I felt faintly bewildered and not completely liking all this changing of names.

Mitsuwa was once Yaohan.  It went through a name change several years ago. I have grown used to that change.

Sears Tower, now Willis Tower. Many Chicagoans have not gotten used to that.

The things are there, mostly unchanged in appearance and perhaps substance.   But the names.  How is it so that it matters?

Living on Arsenal Street means neighbors.

Kamaria next door mentioned a couple weeks ago that she was considering decorating her front steps.  We arrived home this afternoon from a retreat at camp.  She did.

Kamaria's pumpkins

Looking east down Arsenal this afternoon –

Arsenal Street - Marlo parking his pickup

Marlo, our other next door neighbor, parking his pickup.

This weekend at camp we worked together with Officer friends.  Conversation at dinner last night touched on the disconnected lifestyle of Salvation Army Officers.  Most of us tend to be so absorbed in our work that we barely know who are our neighbors.

Who is my neighbor?  (Luke 10:29)

Most of us who work in urban areas are assigned living quarters in suburbs.  Like many suburban dwellers we drive into a garage, shut the door, and never meet neighbors.  So busy doing the most good.  The priest, the Levite in the Gospel of Luke probably were also busy.  Religion’s high callings tend to keep us busy.  Sometimes too absorbed to notice others along the street.

Sound like your life?

Living on Arsenal means knowing Marlo and Kamaria next door.  Joe across the street.  The houseful of Mexican guys at the end of the alley who on occasion like to fill the trash bin with beer bottles.  The two households across the street on the block west of us, who do not want to know you.  Who do not want you bothering them.  Only makes us wonder.  What’s up with those two houses?

Marlo tells us that he keeps an eye on the street.  We are learning to do the same.  Sara just west of us, the same.

We are learning who are our neighbors.

Here they are –  

 preparing to enter –  

We were guests at the St Louis Adult Rehabilitation Center on Forest Park  Avenue.  The St Louis ARC is one of a hundred ARCs operated by The Salvation Army throughout the USA.  ARC specializes in a program for men and women dealing with substance abuse/addictive behaviors. 

I failed to get a picture during the morning worship.  Major Katrina Mathews directing the choir.  One of the leaders in an astonishing leap out of his pew to worship.  A graduate’s earnest words on completing the 180 day ARC program.  His mother’s testimony, that she sees something very different in her son; he’s been transformed.

At lunch we debrief.  Wrap up other business.  And then return to Benton Park West to tag team our one mower as we cut our lawns.  From the house at Wyoming to the California house and then to ours at 2708 Arsenal.  Texas house will get done later this week.  After I finish, I push the mower back to the basement at the Temple Corps.

 Early this morning I cleaned up a little in the alley.  Someone else’s mess. Rooting up crab grass growing between the paving bricks.

Sara tells us that being a good neighbor means giving attention to these kinds of things.  

Being a good neighbor also means unplanned-for time and energy away from planned-for matters of our personal/individual/private lives.

We talked about this quite a bit yesterday.

We live lives where things are tidy, on time, arranged in an economy of things fitting into an orderly and neat life.  We do have jobs, school, commitments.

We also walk down the street, on our way to the next thing on our agenda, but stop to make time for someone, a neighbor, a person who may be in need.

We are learning to live our lives in the tension between both.

We are learning when to be on time or when to make time.

One last thought.  If we choose to make time, it’s a creative action.  The appearance of time comes in the Genesis account of creation.  There is a sun and moon.  Seasons.  And the Genesis narrator’s voice says there was evening.  There was morning.  The first day. (Genesis 1:5) 


“We can live in our neighborhoods but never live life in them.”

Jon Huckins described this to be the North American urban experience.

We don’t want that to be our experience.

Thinking of Jon, I took a look at my notes from when Jon was with us in the middle of March.

Here is what I wrote for his presentation on the six postures to live God’s mission in our neighborhood.

The Six Postures

listening (communion, community, context). Allowing us to hear what God is directing us regarding the mission. Carthusian monks: silence. Practices? prayer walks. times of silence. conversations with residents. study history or our place. learn about all dimensions of the neighborhood (faiths, parks, stories, to other churches, etc). Two questions: What interrupts your ability to listen? What is listening one experiment or practice?

submerging, able to dive into the real issues of our neighborhood. Down, deep below our surface perceptions, into the realities. from dabbling, to being present. Six submerging practices: practicing presence; stop spending so much time at church (esp. church leaders); identify the assets in your neighborhood; connect with influencers; submerge into areas of brokenness; contend for the broken to the point of restoration.

Questions: what interrupts your ability to submerge … what is one practice/experiment?

inviting, in the context of Jesus’ invitation to repentance and the kingdom; radical hospitality-invitation, into the shared life of Jesus, discipleship, into a realignment into the values/way of life. 2-way invitation: there is a mutuality to invitation meaning we are inviting and also being invited. What interrupts …. what is one inviting practice/experiment?
contending, actions for healing broken systems, people, realities. Notice, this comes after listening, submerging, and inviting. Matters of justice, per OT, Luke. John 4 Jesus with the Samaritan woman.. The Good Samaritan, Luke 15. Covenant forms the strong foundation in which contending can take place. Contending, as what can be done to stand up for the dignity of the other, as in the story of Lola, one-toothed woman in the wheelchair. What interrupts … practice/experiment?      
imagining helps us to remember that we are part of a narrative of hope, new creation, and choosing this narrative rather than one of fear. Moses story. acquiring new eyes for our neighborhood. Jon’s neighborhood street fair which made his neighbors’ eyes open wide realizing what can be.

entrusting. ‘so send I you’. a distinction between “retaining” and entrusting.  

  El Bronco on Cherokee Street.  Chips, salsa and more talking about life in Benton Park West for those of us who have become the newest Temple House dwellers.
I order the steak tacos.  Small soft corn tortillas doubled to hold the steak bits garnished with radish slice, cilantro and chopped onion.  Drizzled with juice from a thick lime wedge.  It has become my recent go-to on the El Bronco menu.  With rice and beans?  $6.95.  Beats Wendy’s chicken sandwich.

We sit and talk about life in our neighborhood.  How to be good neighbors.  How to watch for the occasional dangers.  

Sara led us in an exercise of identifying ten ways to be good neighbors.  We reference Jon Huckins’ Thin Places which we studied last year.  Jon also came to St Louis earlier this year to teach on this subject, and how a community can be formed which supports those who enter into the mission of God, missio Dei, in the world.  

For us in Temple Houses it is the urban world known as St Louis.  And a time which is now the Urban Millennium.  The first time in which the majority of human beings in the history of the world live in urban places.
For us, how to begin?


Into the places, rhythms, life of our city’s neighborhood.


  Sauce on the Side packs a good deal into its meals.  Affordable, generous serving, a great new location, and, of course, a variety of calzones without parallel.  I had my latest favorite:  the Costanza.  I like the eggplant.
Now we are putting our shoes back on and heading over to the Wyoming house to meet everyone for a walk to Cherokee Street.

As part of our TH retreat we are exploring the business district for our neighborhood.  Part of helping to learn the neighborhood.

Gail is urging me out of the door.


On the way downtown because we are done with 1875 St Louis at the Missouri History Museum which is one worthwhile place to see.  And free.  

Unlike other cities where accessibility is an issue.  Accessibility based on $$.  Chicago comes to mind.

I was talking with Steve about this matter of acessibility.  Steve calls St Louis a poor person’s city, but he means it in the sense that so many of the beauties of city such as a museum are at no charge.  That’s accessibility. 

Lunch time.  

Here we are, at least those of us able to spend this day as an urban retreat:  

I snapped the picture just before we loaded up in the minivan.  It is Saturday morning and the weather is remarkable.  Sunny, cool breezes, today’s high in the low 70s.

We headed for Soulard.  But first:

John’s Donuts which I’ve eaten quite few over the years but this was my first actual visit. I ate two glazed donuts. Among some of the best I’ve eaten ANYWHERE

Next, shopping Soulard’s.  Cash only.  Three big California peaches which the lady shopping next to me gushed about.  A little bit of sugar, a little bit of Splenda, a little bit of sauteeing.  Don’t let them get brown.  Delicious.  She beamed.  The purveyor grinned.

Also, I got an ugly cantalope.  Which in my estimation tend to be the best tasting.  It hefted right and smelled right.  

Now, on our way to Forest Park and 1875 St Louis which is a fascinating exhibit.  Visit it and you begin to understand many of today’s dynamics in St Louis and our region.

I’ll post more about this later. 

 We started last night with chili dinner, teaching and sharing at Sara’s.  Our Temple Houses retreat in the city.  TH are in transition again as most of those who have been with us the last year or tow have transitioned on to new places.  Including three who are now in Chicago, training to become Salvation Army Officers.  

Our retreat is giving several new TH dwellers the chance to meet and learn about one another.  To talk and learn what we wll be doing as we train for missional living as a community in our St Louis urban setting.

Recently we took stock.  How many?  Almost thirty have been Temple House dwellers.  And now we start again.



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